Agencies have to “step up” and meet the need for innovation that has taken root due to changes in the marketing ecosystem, according to Nick Brien, CEO/Americas for Dentsu Aegis Network.

Brien discussed this subject during a session at the 4A’s (American Association of Advertising Agencies) 2019 Decisions 20/20 conference.

“There are a lot of different players in the marketing-services landscape,” he said. (For more, read WARC’s in-depth report: Understanding the next wave of agency innovation.)

“And it’s all converging. And it should be converging, because we’re in a digital landscape where we have the opportunity to use different theories and to put them together.”

Innovation, he continued, is not about “standing still”. To that end, he challenged the 4A’s gathering, “Are we doing things right? Are we doing things better? Are we doing things differently?”

And he didn’t seem confident about the responses his colleagues might generate: “I believe all of us in the agency sector – anyone providing marketing services – have to step up.”

In the face of trends like the rise of consultancies and many clients opting to in-house certain media and creative functions, Brien suggested that agencies are typically “too passive” in adapting to new realities.

“We’re too incremental. We have legacy structures, and with them come legacy mentalities, legacy behaviors, legacy relationships, and legacy P&Ls. We’re all output-focused: CPMs, CPAs, reach and frequency.

“Consultants and their ilk are moving from the supply-side and coming into the demand-side. And that’s our side of the business.”

The opportunity for such intrusion occurs because of the observable “gap between the marketing outputs and the business outcomes”.

“General Motors,” Brien proposed, “want us to drive qualified leads into dealerships.” Conversion of those prospects is the bottom line that reflects business needs, not marketing objectives.

Among the numerous other issues that agencies should prioritise, Brien said, are greater accountability, internal alignment, an obsession with creativity and a removal of silos – as well as boosting diversity levels across the industry.

Taking a much broader perspective, the Dentsu Aegis chief told his agency colleagues, “Our job is to help our clients win, keep, and grow their best customers.”

Sourced from WARC